The first home we arrived in was deep in the township of Botshebelo. We wound down roads and passed small brick homes built by the government. 2 rooms. We passed aluminum shacks slowly being built as the resident could afford. The yards were dirt, the fences were a few think pieces of barbed wire. But many of them had flowers planted and thriving. Women were sweeping their stoop, made of dirt, but still wanting it to look smooth. It was eerily quiet, but most of the children were in school. We arrived at the home of a lovely woman who wanted to adopt her niece. The first smell that overwhelmed me was of feces. The outhouse was close to the door. A little girl was eating some traditional South African food with her fingers (also traditional). The woman welcome all 5 of into her home. She scurried around for chairs for everyone as I took it all in. We were in the fully finshed kitchen. It was very small but had enough room for 2 refrigerators, a very small stove, a washing machine and a wall of cabinets. I looked past the kitchen and my eyes were drawn to the other two rooms of the house. Dirt floors, cement brick walls, a tin roof with wires hanging everywhere. I large garbage can. Multiple pieces of lumber, a tub likely used for washing dishes and people.
But what I could not get over was the genuine smile of this woman. She was so excited that she could legally adopt her niece. She has been caring for the child for a year, and the child lived in a home right behind her until her mother died. This woman receives a grant from the government for fostering her niece and when the adoption is finalized the grant will be cut to less than half. She does not care because she knows how important permanence is.
She showed us the two other houses in the “compound” both of them were finished. They were small, small than most people’s RV’s, but they were beautiful. They were cared for. They were curtains in the window and a table cloth on the table. The beds were made. There were plants and flowers and wall decorations. This extended family was proud of their homes. The built them themselves over time. They lived in them half- finished for as long as it took to finish.
I did not measure square feet of rooms, I did not test water. I did not care that there were wires hanging from the ceiling or only one bedroom for 5 people. I knew this woman loved her niece. I knew this woman would do anything for this child. She told us how she supported her emotionally though her mother’s death.
It just reminds me how we focus on so many of the wrong things. We cannot or are not allowed, to look beyond policy and rules. We are so distracted by these things we can rarely see the heart. And as the saying goes, “Home is where the heart is”